Charlotte County citizens not seeing promised tax credits

Published 12:52 am Friday, September 1, 2023

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A public hearing to approve an ordinance about tax credits for Charlotte County residents was shut down earlier this month following what officials said was a mistake. 

During the Board of Supervisors August meeting, Chairman Gary Walker read a statement announcing instead of a public hearing and vote on a 2024  tax rebate, the issue would be tabled until the September board meeting. 

Walker said the decision to table the issue came from an email that County Administrator Dan Witt received from a citizen informing the county that the result intended by the Board of Supervisors when it adopted a real estate tax rebate ordinance in October 2022 had not been achieved.

“Once again, the County’s rush to do something without careful thought and oversight has come back to bite us,” said citizen Kathy Liston.

Liston, who addressed the board during the August meeting, said “Unfortunately for the County, this whole thing has backfired. While there were “solar credits” issued on both tax bills for FY 2023 (December 2022 and June 2023), they were incorrectly calculated and citizens received just a fraction of what they were entitled to under the ordinance. Instead of 5 cents on the $100 assessed value, the rebate was just 5% of the annual tax, a much lower amount.”

More about promised tax credits

The tax rebate ordinance adopted by the BOS in  October  2022 was to be reflected on the tax bills sent out for payments in December 2022 and June 2023.

County officials are ensuring their intention to use $500,000 in solar funds to help reduce tax payments is met.

“The Board regrets the unintended oversight that was made in calculating FY22/23 real estate tax credits but is pleased to take action that will correct that oversight by ensuring that property owners receive the real estate tax credit amount intended.” County officials said.

“County staff will determine what Board action is necessary to ensure that the result intended by the Board when it adopted that ordinance is the result which will be achieved,” Walker read in a statement during the August meeting. “If the Board takes action on Sept. 11, that action will be timely.” 

In addition, Walker requested county staff to investigate the discrepancy and advise the board “of the action to be taken on Sept. 11.”

On Aug. 18 the BOS released the following statement. 

“Notwithstanding that the ordinance adopted by the Board correctly reflected the Board’s intent, through unintended oversight, the correct amount of the real estate tax credit was not shown on bills sent out for FY22/23. The oversight was that the 5% credit was levied against the real estate tax due when the 5% credit should have been levied against the tax assessed value. As a result, each bill was credited by a smaller amount than the amount intended by the Board.” Liston, in her address to the BOS, pointed out that the miscalculation issue may have come from RDA, the computer company the County uses for tax matters.

“It appears that the calculation problem originated with the program written by RDA,” Liston said. If so, this is just another in a long line of problems with this company. But, truthfully, this is just another in a long line of missteps by the County caused by rushing into action without doing research and giving careful thought to the consequences. The fact that the error in the rebates – which was flagged by a citizen, not the County — happened and would have continued to happen if the same ordinance had been passed again tonight is appalling.